Africa has long had a reputation for being a troubled continent, with a disturbing past that too often has blocked it from overcoming challenges for a brighter future. It has had a tough and violent history, with dark legacies often defining numerous chapters of the past. The end of colonialism wound up yielding to a new era often filled with instability for young, fledgling republics, as civil wars and famines devastated numerous countries throughout the continent. Also, more recent history has shown that many of the leaders who were often hailed as heroes early on during liberation movements in time turned into dictators unwilling to yield an inch of their power and privilege once they were entrenched in their leadership roles.
Many African countries have struggled to try to get on their feet, and numerous challenges have often prevented them from doing so. Among the most debilitating limitations is a lack of adequate infrastructure within the country. Ports and roadways are often old and have not kept up with modern needs. Electricity, something that is often taken for granted among citizens of western countries, is generally not entirely reliable in many countries. These are all aspects of the reality in Africa today that could serve to impede future growth.
South Africa, probably the most stable and profitable of all countries on the continent, has spent enormous sums of money to promote peace in Burundi and South Sudan. But the situation in these countries is now deteriorating, and the fragile peace is being seriously threatened. Stories such as these have been all too common in recent history.
Yet, many have often expressed their belief in the potential for growth and better times for the future for the continent. This is a place with remarkable diversity, with more countries than any other continent. There are countless different languages, both official and not official, spoken throughout, which include various local, tribal languages. One of the things that binds most of Africa is a very troubled past, which it must overcome in order to create a brighter future.
Earlier this month, there was a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, that focused on the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement. Leaders from 26 different nations gathered to discuss further this pact. These combined nations involved in the agreement encompass well over half a billion people, and these nations have a combined GDP of $1.3 trillion. The trade agreement is designed to ease trade restrictions, with the possibility of creating free trade in the future across the African continent.
Overall, many want to see something more, and many hope the African Union can help these struggling nations fulfill this promise together. This organization was established in 2001 to promote ever greater unity and progress throughout the continent. Every nation on the continent except Morocco has joined, although it should be noted that the Central African Republic was suspended after the recent conflict there.
Indeed, Africa has a lot to offer. As a continent, it has a huge expanse of land and is tremendously rich in resources. Seven of the ten fastest growing economies are here. Geographically, it is the second biggest continent after Asia, and it now has one billion people, also second to Asia. It is estimated that in 25 years, a quarter of the world’s workforce will be here. All of this suggests that this continent’s prominence is rising, and perhaps dramatically at that.
Furthermore, there are indications that Africa is ready to rise. Attractive markets are rising there, the middle class has grown stronger, and there has been a trend towards urbanization in recent years. These are among the most promising signs to indicate the long-suffering continent is on the verge of establishing a more lasting success.
Still, there are some setbacks that the continent has suffered, and large obstacles that would still need to be overcome. This continent has long been considered one of the most cursed of places. There are numerous wars being fought simultaneously on the continent, and that has been the case for a long time. It has been wrought with political instability and dictatorial regimes. Corruption is rampant, and Africa as a whole is seen as relying entirely too much on import of food from other countries.
The promise for a better future seems within reach, although the obstacles are many. The African Union is trying to bind these various and very diverse nations together, in an attempt to realize the continent’s potential more fully. They may all be very different from one another, and this will surely present challenges, but the lingering questions regarding their individual differences and concerns may be ironed out if the tremendous potential for economic progress is finally realized. Africa must overcome a very troubled past in order to create a brighter future.
By Charles Bordeau
Al-Aribiya News – The Arab world and the future of Africa
IOL News – Africa can ill afford repeat of history
Business Day Live – Why Africa Must Learn From Europe’s Mistakes
Inside Photo Courtesy of Arsenie Coseac – Flickr License
Featured Photo Courtesy of Graham Holliday – Flickr License